There was a threat of thunderstorms for today, and when we awoke to brilliant blue skies and temperatures that rose steadily towards 70 we decided to get out while we could. We headed for a local state park that we frequently use - I like to think of it as our classroom. We were there for close to four hours, wandering, exploring, and really enjoying ourselves.
I have a friend who is doing a lot of soul-searching about unschooling her kids, trying to figure out if it is a good fit for their family. When we got a precious three minutes to talk today I told her that I am in a constant state of re-evaluation of what is working and what isn't, and right now this is what I know: our learning life works best when I am healthy in mind, body and spirit. Our way of learning - being out in the world, being together, reading reading reading, talking talking talking - to each other and to everyone else we meet - always works for our kids. For now. They are always in the present (it might be a parallel universe, but it's Now!), and they are sponges. They are always figuring, wondering creating, communicating. "Mom," she yells from across the street. "If you spelled the word 'potato' backwards, what would it sound like?"
It does not take much for them to become engaged; it might not always be what I was hoping would engage them (the nature journals and field guides stayed in the bag today), but we try to eliminate things that might cause great struggle for us right now (I'm thinking TV or video type games), creating an environment that we can all grow in.
When I am floundering, as happens once in a while, what brings us back to feeling more balance is a lot of reading together - on the blanket outside, at the breakfast table, on the couch, in bed - and some place inviting to explore. I asked Ani what her favorite part of our morning today was; her answer was when my toes were first in the water, and when my toes went in the goopey mud. Oh, and when we sat with our toes in the big water, near the frogs.
The thunder clouds are finally rolling in, and it's time to call the girls home from where they are playing in the playground across the street. They're with some friends who homeschooled until January and who often need care after school hours until parents are home. I asked them today about recess, thinking that they might be tired of their school playgrounds and might want to go elsewhere. Twenty minutes is what they told me. Twenty minutes a day, between the hours of 8:30 and 3:30 is how much time they spend outside. This makes me so glad we are doing what we are doing, even on the rough days. How can four hours exploring the world with their toes not be exactly what my kids needed to do today?